CLACKAMAS, Ore. — A photo in an obituary on The Oregonian is going viral.
The obituary is dedicated to a veteran who passed away with no family to claim him.
Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home is holding a free service for Navy veteran Danny Joe Mendenhall, asking people to come to the service. He will receive full military honors.
Douglas Ray Walls, a Marine Corps veteran, will be honored alongside Mendenhall. He, too, had no family.
The public service for Mendenhall and Walls will be Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m. at Willamette National Cemetery.
Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program makes this happen for indigent vets and those living on the streets. They feel all vets deserve to have a dignified service regardless of their circumstances.
Too often, veterans pass away while living on the streets or in shelters with no connection to loved ones.
We don't know yet if Mendenhall or Walls were homeless. But it led us to think about homeless veterans in our community and what services are out there to help them.
“I never imagined being on the streets like this myself because I've always worked all my life until I retired. Then you know things go downhill after you retire,” said Alvin Wilson, an Army veteran.
He was drafted in September of 1969 and served his country here and overseas.
When Wilson's landlord sold the home he, his daughter and her children were renting, they were forced to find somewhere affordable to fit them all. But their search was unsuccessful.
They wound up sleeping in her van, not feeling like anyone cared about his service – or him.
“I felt vulnerable. It felt like I didn't mean nothing,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s experience isn’t unique.
"I’ve seen a lot of it. They just can’t transition from being in the service to out here in the world,” Wilson said. “It is very sad. I hate to see it.”
He now lives at Do Good Multnomah’s Veterans Village.
The nonprofit exists to help homeless vets like Wilson. Among emergency shelters and other housing, they created a veterans village in Clackamas. It's a transitional housing village made up of pods.
So far, program and development manager Jonny Fisher says they’ve found permanent housing for 12 people in the year they’ve been open.
“It’s security. It offers a place where they know they can go. Even if they mess up they’re safe. We’re here to help them with whatever they need. And it’s a support group. Everyone needs a support group,” Fisher said. “It's building them back up and treating them with the respect they deserve.”
The goal is to support them, get them off the streets and into permanent housing.
"When it really comes down to it, it's people running out of relationships. There's only so many times you can ask to borrow money, only so many times you can ask to sleep on someone's couch. And so we're here kind of here as a safety net to help our vets,” Fisher said.
In Multnomah County, community organizations like Do Good Multnomah got 560 homeless vets into permanent supportive housing last year.
Still, this year's Point in Time Count showed of the 4,015 homeless in Multnomah County, 474 people, which is a little under 12%, were veterans. That's a nearly 6% increase since 2017.
A different story is playing out in Clackamas County where Do Good says there's a decline in homeless veterans.
Wilson is part of that dwindling statistic. He is one of five vets living at a veterans village planning to move into Do Good Multnomah’s new permanent supportive housing complex in the next week or so.
“Oh I’m ecstatic about moving in to my new apartment,” Wilson said, “I mean, they’re brand new!”